Somalia: Puntland’s controversial road to elections [EDITORIAL]
EDITORIAL: Puntland is Somalia’s oldest federal state. But even the most experienced can face turmoil, as we have seen recently when a political controversy arose over whether to hold elections while amending the constitution.
The result has been uproar from constitutional amendments opponents and stubbornness from those supporting Puntland leader Said Abdullahi Deni. And now, the federal state has become the chaos most people thought it wouldn’t be.
Some words of divinity rented the air last week on Friday in Puntland’s mosques. And the call from those opposed to constitutional amendments is that Deni and his Council of Ministers stop pushing forward with the changes.
When the dust first erupted in Garowe, weeks ago, it drew a wedge even in Puntland’s security forces. Yet those stuck to the amendments are steeled in defence of the local legislative assembly which is tasked with endorsing the proposed changes.
Last week, the Mideye political association hosted a press briefing in Garowe, laying blame on the shoulders of the President and the Chairman of the House of Representatives. The President is already in the final months of his constitutional five-year term. The Chairman - a member of the ruling KAAH Political Association shoulders the blame for it is his push in the House that could grant Deni his longed-for gift.
Not that the amendments are bad per se. For one, the pushers have sought to provide room for the expansion of political movements allowed to contest in elections from three, enabling an indefinite number to register. From the face of it, that could be good for democracy. In fact, Deni’s supporters say he wants to change the way parliament is elected: away from the traditional clan elders to universal suffrage.
Yet opponents of Deni have a sense of selfishness involved. First, parliament only has one sitting left to complete its term. If we allow constitutional amendments before elections, it means we may have to make do with an indefinite extension on their term which essentially means Deni’s term too will be extended beyond the January 2024 window.
Opponents of Deni have been accusing him of using the constitutional ploy to technically prolong his term in office without first subjecting himself to an electoral contest.
Abdirashid Yusuf Jibril, Chairman of the Puntland House of Representatives and erstwhile director of communication for former Puntland President Abdiweli Haas, is facing the heat.
Whether he does the right thing or cracks under pressure is something we will wait and see. But a grim picture was already painted by Member of Parliament Farah Biyole on the situation in parliament. Biyole suggested that bad blood was already circulating within the House and suggested this venomous atmosphere had been delivered with the explicit intent of amending the Constitution.
For President Deni, the sand of his legal term rapidly draining from his hourglass of constitutional mandate. Some analysts suggest he is firmly affixed on the 2026 federal elections in Somalia. It remains to be seen how this saga of politics, power, and constitutional alterations unfolds.
If he comes out unlucky, he may look back at the 18 months he wasted seeking the presidency of the federal government of Somalia, a race he lost to Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Had he concentrated on the amendments in Puntland, he would have been out of time today.